Blog DesignBlog Tips

How Not to Design Your Blog

By Feb 10, 2011October 28th, 2014166 Comments

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You’ve heard everybody say it: content is king. And yes, you do need to have great content, as well as SEO and a social media presence to have a blog that people come back to day after day. But the first impression a new blog visitor gets comes from what a blog looks like. And if your blog doesn’t look good or is confusing to navigate, your audience won’t stay and continue reading.

A well-dressed blog can maximize your assets and show off your personal style. This makes viewers want to get to know you better, and you’ll enjoy stronger readership and higher success in achieving your blogging goals as a result. Plus, the confidence and self-esteem you gain from knowing your blog looks good makes you more likely to keep up with writing posts and taking the time to promote them.

How NOT to design your blog. Avoid making these mistakes in your blog design.

That said, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a theme or hire a designer to have a stylish blog. I’ve put together three simple style rules you can follow that will keep your do-it-yourself  blog from looking homemade.

The Rules:

Rule #1: Know your blog type and play up your assets.

When a new visitor comes to your site it should be obvious to them what type of blog they’re about to read. For instance, a blog about food should use food pictures and earthy, foody colors. A humorous blog should have a funny title, tagline or graphics and look full of energy.

When Pigs Fly Humor Blog Header Design
Give your readers a focal point to keep their first impression from being too chaotic. When choosing your focal point, ask yourself what the first thing is that you want readers to notice when they click on your site. Do you want them to see your logo, your profile, the topics you regularly post about or a recent post or excerpt? Make that the biggest and most eye-catching section or graphic on your blog. Then choose coordinating graphics and colors that have the same attitude, mood or tone, but keep them small.

Rule #2: Choose patterns that aren’t distracting.

Patterns are great and they add the kind of detail that makes your blog special. But ask yourself: Would you wear a cocktail dress made from your background pattern (this goes for Twitter, too)? No? Well then why is your blog wearing a full-length ballgown of it? A distracting background can cause a reader to lose focus and miss out on the content you want them to read.


Bad and Good Use of Large Pattern for Blog Design

Photo Credit: Dress – vzmoda35, Clutch – a03designs (Both from Etsy)

Choose a background with a small print. Or if you find a large or bold print that you LOVE, use it sparingly like an accessory—on your header and footer, a fat stripe across the middle, or in one of your sidebar widgets. Or pick one with only a subtle contrast in the colors, like light blue on medium blue. Mixing patterns is fun but make sure you color-coordinate your mixed prints, or stick to one dominant print with additional small prints.

Also, try not to have type running over any background that has a dominant print to it. Again, if people can’t read it, they will leave.

Rule #3: Keep accessories simple.

Widgets are designed to enhance your blog post content, not obscure it. Keep your widgets simple and only use a few to keep them from becoming visually overwhelming. Be conscientious about what you really need. Are you really using that calendar widget that came with your theme? If you must have a lot, try putting them in a tabbed widget so they aren’t all visible at the same time.

Too Many Distracting Accessories
Blog badges and awards are fun to display but often come in many different sizes and design styles. If you start accumulating a lot it can make your sidebar look unkempt, saying “I’m a crazy badge lady” instead of “I’m an award-winning blogger.” Instead, keep a few of your most recent or most important badges in a two-column ad widget on your sidebar and create a separate blog page to highlight the rest.

Be sure to check out the other posts in our blog design mini-series:

About Renee

AKA - Bold Mom. Graphic and Web Designer, Wife and Momtrepreneur. Eats, sleeps and breathes design. Loves helping bloggers look their best! Studio Bold | Bold Mom | Twitter | Facebook


  • This is great! I love way you put it into perspective with the cocktail dress thing. So true! If you wouldn’t swathe yourself in it, why do it to your blog?

  • alyce says:

    This is very helpful design info. Thanks for the tips.

  • Mrs.Mayhem says:

    Thank you for this advice! My blog has been undergoing an identity crisis. I need all the help I can get!

  • Jenny says:

    Great tips! I really want to win her giveaway!

  • Mrs. Jen B says:

    Great insight and advice! I know what *doesn’t* work as a result of visiting so many hundreds of blogs over time, but it’s tough when it comes down to trying to figure out that “It” factor that *does* work.

  • I cannot wait to visit this site. I’ve been working on finding ideas to update my blog’s look and could use all the help I can get.

  • Mommy Boots says:

    I think the thing that hit me the most about these tips is the “let your readers know what to expect” – just based on the header. That’s brilliant!!!!

  • Mariposa says:

    Great tips! Thanks for the advice… 🙂

  • Just Us says:

    I hope I win the contest! My blog is breaking all the rules! I guess the one thing I did right, is not writing over the background image!

  • Laura says:

    This was great advice!

  • Beth says:

    you’re right, when you you get to blog, the design should tell you what it’s about. it’s so hard to relay what you WANT to relay with your blog design and then make that happen. By the time you’ve tweaked it, added plug-ins, etc. it’s hard to be objective anymore. I have a new appreciation for graphic designers that’s for sure.

    Thanks for the great post

  • Anna says:

    This is simply perfect – now off to reevaluate my little piece of the blog world!

  • Maggie S. says:

    Good advice. My university spent an incredible amount of money to change the signposts all over campus–“To reduce visual clutter.” At the time it made me mad, but I am reminded of that phrase daily. I love a clean, comfortable blog design.

  • Marci says:

    Thanks for all the helpful tips 🙂

  • Randa says:

    Great post! Definitely feel like I need to go and spruce up the blog but now it’ll be a lot easier!

  • PatriciaD says:

    Makes me wish I could get good training to do web design…every blog deserves it’s own unique and beautiful face.

  • thanks for the tips. blog layout is so important to building and maintaining readership. there are so many choices that it’s easy to go crazy with the design elements. do like Coco Chanel and remove one thing!

  • Alexandra says:

    But what if you don’t know what to do??

  • Love the design tips–the SITS graphics look great! My blog is a plain old WordPress template, so I’d love a bloggy makeover! 🙂

  • Rebekah C says:

    Excellent advice! I’ll definitely be chewing on this for a bit.

    Did ya miss me? My kids did something weird to my computer so I’ve not been around all week. But I’m back now! (I totally don’t think anyone missed me, lol)

  • It’s hard to evaluate one’s own blog. I usually am a copy cat and emulate the blogs I like to spend time at.

  • GREAT advice! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!

  • misssrobin says:

    I know that there are many blogs I click away from because they are too busy or disorganized. I hope everyone reads this and looks at their own blog through this lens.

    Great tips!

  • Bianca says:

    By the way, it goes without saying that I love the SITS design in the portfolio, but I also love the one for Social Girl media – so clever!

  • Simone says:

    Great advise. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nicky says:

    Thanks for this Giveaway – totally awesome! I’m a new blogger & my site totally needs some help. I’d love to win this prize, your work is fabulous!

  • I set a goal to declutter my blog sidebars once a month… but sometimes it’s harder to do than I think

  • Bianca says:

    Love these tips! I have actually had a blog make-over in mind the past couple weeks and this is just what I needed to remind me of what I should consider! Thanks for helping us make our sites better!

  • Tree says:

    All fabulous ideas! I like “neatness” on my blogs as well, and tend to visit a blog more if it has a pleasant, organized look to it.

  • Tasha says:

    Great advice! I think the biggest problem I have is with the first rule, I’m not sure you would know what my blog is about just by looking at it. Heck, I’m not sure what its about sometimes! I picked the name because it somehow became my “handle” years ago and thus any small internet presence I have would be connected to this name. But it might lead people to think my blog is about food. =/

  • Cole says:

    Love these rules!

  • I REALLY need a new blog design. Or any blog design! I’m tired of looking so unprofessional. Not that I AM professional, I’m just tired of looking that way 🙁 I don’t know the first thing about designing a blog so I’m pretty sure I can’t do it myself.

  • Donna says:

    Heading right over to nominate myself!

  • Great advice! Thank you!

  • Nicky says:

    Great post!

  • April says:

    Great tips! Thanks for the info on the widgets! really helpful!

  • Lynne Miller says:

    Love the pics. “Blog Victim” — to funny!

  • Great post! I think I’m on the right track overall based on this which is comforting. Although, I would totally enter the contest if I can use the win in a year or so when I might need an update!

  • Cristina says:

    I’ll take all the love I can get.

    I’ve got a pre-made template and it feels like I’m a cyber-imposter lurking and waiting for someone to click…

    Kinda like J-Lo waiting for tonight.

    That was bad.

    Sorry – I’m getting more coffee now.


  • Jackie says:

    Great post…and thanks for the advice.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I love how you compare your three rules to the rules of fashion; I think that’s something everybody can relate to, and it makes so much sense!

  • This is a great article! The advice is fantastic!

  • Thank you for all of the blog advice 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    Okay I absolutely loved this post. Everything made mucho sense and although I am still navigating my way through my “never to be seen by others just trying it out secretly” WordPress blog, I will definitely take these reminders to heart and use them practically in every way shape and form. Thank you kind lady.

    My best, Lynn

  • Emily says:

    “Would you wear your background?” That’s awesome! That really sums up why I’m working on redesigning my blog…the background and colors are nice, but they’re just not quite me.

    By the way, I am in LOVE with the new SITS website! I can’t get over how cute and functional it is!

  • Kallay says:

    I kick myself everyday for not going into web and graphic design. I love the graphics on this post.

    I would love to have a blog makeover. Great advice!

  • Renee did an amazing job for me. Don’t you just love my When Pigs Fly header? It really gives my blog a more distinct and edgier feel. Anyone winning this is so lucky. And, if you don’t. Seriously consider hiring this woman. She’s fabulous!

  • Jen says:

    I liked this post very much. Great, great advice.

  • lisa says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head.. to many accesories.. that was my first problem..
    great advice.